Alito: Freedom of religion, speech key to democracy but now under threat
WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (CNS) — The graduating class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia Archdiocese received a special treat at the Concursus graduation ceremony held in the seminary chapel May 17. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. received an honorary doctorate of letters and delivered the formal address. The award to Alito was "in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society," Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in his introduction, "especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace." In his address Alito spoke of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and encroachments on that freedom today. A southern New Jersey native, he is well versed in the history of religious toleration as it developed in Philadelphia, and the important role that religion played in the development of the Constitution, including the visits by the Founding Fathers to the city's various churches, among them Old St. Mary's, tracing back to the Revolution. Part of freedom of religion is "no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs," Alito said. "Most of my life Americans were instilled in this," he added, urging his audience to "keep the flame burning." In an interview for the seminarians' blog, "Seminarian Casual," Alito said that "our most foresighted Founders understood that our country could not hold together unless religious freedom was protected."
Notre Dame students plan walkout during Vice President Pence's commencement address
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) — A student activist coalition at the University of Notre Dame that opposes Vice President Mike Pence as this year's commencement speaker called for students to walk out of the May 21 ceremony when he begins his address. In a May 15 tweet labeled "Taking back our commencement," the group We StaND For invited graduates and others to "sit with a friend on your college. Stand up and walk out once Mike Pence starts to speak. Respectfully and quietly exit the stadium. Join us for a short commencement celebration." Earlier We StaND For announced members would protest Pence as a representative of the Trump administration and also for policies he supported as Indiana's governor, including a religious freedom law and a bill to restrict abortion. "Students who indicated they would protest by leaving the commencement ceremony when the vice president speaks met with the Notre Dame police chief this week and assured her they would leave quietly and respectively," Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, said May 18. "They also sought her advice as to which exit to use upon leaving. They are being cooperative, which was our expectation from the start," Browne added in an email sent to Catholic News Service.